The Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic (results) is just short of a 6k and let me tell you, this was one tough course in spots. Not only did it have an absolutely killer climb, but it also had some pretty rough single track bushwack that kept you on your toes.
I was thinking of getting my k splits (as with all of these Granite State races, the splits are all accurately marked). At 1k in, I realized with my new watch I didn't exactly remember how to split it, so I just let it be (knowing that the 'hill' was coming, I figured a couple of the splits would be pretty ugly anyways). The split markers are really only beneficial so you know where you are out on the course and how much further you have to go...as anyone who runs snowshoe races knows, time usually doesn't mean anything at these things and it will differ year to year. The snow and course conditions change from year to year, as does the weather. This year's course is different from last years, but the climb up Cobble Mountain I believe is the same.
Two nights ago I had a dream that I was out west at a double WMAC race weekend (and no DD did NOT make an appearance in the dream). I dreamt that at both races, I couldn't get my snowshoes on in time and missed the start each time. I told Kristin about it last night and she just rolled her eyes... but today it almost happened to me. After realizing that I didn't really know anyone there (Steve Wolfe sat this one out with a stomach bug) I went out on my warmup solo, and went a little too long, a little too close to race time. I got back with less than 10 minutes to spare and took my sweet time getting ready. What I didn't do is bring my usual black Nike Pegasus (old) trainers that I've run the previous 5 snowshoe races in. Instead I brought a pair of blue Nike XC spikes (DO NOT ASK ME WHY). I threw them on and jogged over to the start. I put my snowshoes on and realized to my horror that the back strap came right up over the low-profile spikes immediately. I now had like 3 minutes to go before the gun was fired...I screwed back over to the car and grabbed my other pair of trainers that I've never snowshoed in, and threw those on. I got to the start in time to do 2 strides before Chris started the race. Immediately I felt like trash. I don't remember the last time I felt this bad this early in a race. I mean, it was immediate. Tim Cox (Acidotic/PR Racing) was right with me and I knew that it was going to be a good race as he has been one of the top NH road race standouts for a long time. One minor error right away, put me down and around the wrong trail for a couple seconds but really didn't add anything to my overall time and didn't affect my place. Tim tried to keep me on the right path about 3 times in the first k (to which I was grateful), as I had no idea what I was doing. It was almost surreal, as I felt like I was completely out of shape and struggled with all of the first 2k which had some decent climbs up and down over groomed xc ski trails. A vast contradiction to how I felt last weekend. I think this was a clear indicator that I need to get a little rest and will call this weekend's racing over after today for sure. The rolls over the first k and a half absolutely killed me. I really struggled and only put a little distance on Tim who hung out within view over my shoulder the whole time...I hit 'the climb' and was in the hurt locker all the way up. 10 seconds running, 5 seconds power hiking, repeat. I think Tim gained quite a bit on me on the way up, as I continue to struggle on the climbs in these races...It made me grateful that dd was out west this weekend :). This is his type of course. At the top of the climb, Mr. Dunn was there offering some words of encouragement and it was down some bushwack single track on and off until 5k. This downhill (like the uphill) was VERY tough. I fell 6 total times completely on my knees and hands. 2 on the way up and 4 on the way down. The trail was about a foot and a half (approximately a pair of snowshoes width wise) wide. If you stepped even an inch to the right or left, you sunk down in a foot + of powder and down you go. This made you have to hold back and go about 50% on the way down (which is tough both mentally and physically). It did occasionally open up back onto groomed xc trails which you could really rock on...but the damage to my legs and cardio was already done. At just after 5k, I got wacked in the head with a thin bunch of branches hanging over the trail and it whipped my sunglasses off the top of my head. I stopped about 12-15 feet from them, and quickly made the decision to go back for them before they got trampled. The last part of the race was a long straightaway over rough semi-packed snow that was just plain slow and made for a grueling last run to the finish.
In the end, I won in a time of 32:11, with Tim not too far back in his 2nd snowshoe race ever. All in all a tough course, but great fun as usual. I did 'glance' at my watch at 5k and saw I was 29:05 (Yikes!). Did I mention there was a climb in there? 67 total finishers made for another pretty good field for the series.
Chris Dunn and his Acidotic Racing crew know how to pick great courses and put on really cool, professional snowshoe races for sure. The post-race festivities were again, worth the trip. They get a lot of raffle prizes (almost enough to get everyone who shows up, something to take home). Like Pooh Hill a few weeks back, Redhook donated a TON of beer (this time, 12 packs), Redhook merchandise, and clothing and hats. There were also gift certs, pairs of Yak Trax, Hammer Gels, Katoolah swag, etc. The coolest thing at the end, was of course the raffling off of another pair of Katoolah FLIGHTdeck TS snowshoes. Like Pooh Hill, I got some Redhook Long Hammer (but 12 this time :) ). Then, for winning the race, I got hooked up with another 12 rack of Redhook Copper Hook Spring Ale and another pair of Katoolah Microspikes (which I will graciously give to Kristin, as I have my pair from Pooh Hill). So far I'm really enjoying this series and like getting up and running in new places this winter. I'm glad dd talked me into snowshoe racing. It's really the first time he's ever given me good advice. Usually he is trying to railroad me, but I have to actually give him some credit on this one...
I also got to chat with Dan Scotina who has a really cool trail running/snowshoeing blog that focuses on Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, MA (where I did most all of my runs in High School, including our home XC course). It's really an underrated place to run and I enjoyed getting back down there a couple times this summer to run over some of the many trails and access roads all through the reservation. Not only does it bring back some cool memories for me, but its also a great place to get in a good workout. It is pretty hilly, as anyone who has run the Breakheart 6k in Wakefield, MA knows.
All in all it was a good day, but I'm pretty beat and may actually indulge in one of these beers I brought home (alert the media). The lovely and talented Kristin didn't make the trip, as she was home pretty sick this weekend and had a tough week with illness, hence no real photographic evidence from this one. I was too tired to really take any shots after the race (I took maybe 5 of the ski area and that was it).... Looking forward now to a long slow run tomorrow and will watch myself this week and make sure I get some adequate rest while keeping my mileage up... Then 2 more Granite State races next weekend: Sidehiller in Center Sandwich, NH on Saturday (which is also a WMAC series race and a USSSA regional qualifyer for snowshoe nationals out at Mt. Hood, OR in March) and then Frosty's Dash For a Cure in Atkinson, NH, which is in my neck of the hood, I mean woods on Sunday.